“Jesus loves me this I know”, these are the words that I clung to as a child. To look at me now, you would never guess that I was one of five children born to a single mom who lived in poverty. From looking at me now, you would never know that I had an absent father and that I was terribly neglected as a child. When you see my progress, you would never imagine that I was sexually abused as a child from the age 4 through 12. When you see me with my head held high, you might never guess that I grew up in a home where I felt invisible most of the time; that I was a high school dropout at the age of 16 or that there was ever a time in my life when I did not want to live even one more day.
My life story is my greatest testimony of the mercy, grace and healing power of a God whose love is enough to save anyone, even me. My walk with Him began as a young child. My fondest memories as a child are going to church with my mom on Sundays and Wednesday nights. I was a “little daisy” which refers to the name of the Sunday school class of which I was a member. I had no idea that I had already started life with many setbacks, and I had no idea that I was any different than any other little girl my age. As I look back now, I am overwhelmingly reminded of how Jesus asks us to have the faith of a child. I can remember that precious time in my life when my faith was bigger than my tiny body. I remember learning that God is my Father in heaven. As many children do, I took this very literally. I figured that, since I did not have a dad that lived in my house, God was My Father! This made perfect sense to me. You can imagine how special this made me feel. God, the one and only was my Father! He loved me so much! He cherished me and He listened to me every night as I explained to Him all about my days and the adventures I faced as a young girl. He listened as I shared my frustrations with Him and as I asked Him to give special messages to my grandpa and all my unfortunate pets that lived in heaven with Him already. Whatever troubles I encountered throughout my days did not phase me because I had a Father in heaven that listened to me, cared about me and was so REAL in my life. Not only did I have a Father, I had THE FATHER, the greatest Father of all! Not only was He my father, but I had a famous big brother also. His name is Jesus. He loved me enough to come and die for my sins so that He could take me to live in heaven with Him when I was ready. I loved looking at His picture. I remember staring at the many images of Him that I found in my children’s bible as I struggled to read the stories from when He walked on the earth. He was not any ordinary Big Brother. He loved little children and he seemed to really like lambs an awful lot too. My favorite picture of Him was one in which He sat on a tree stump with a child on His lap. There were children all around Him and they all seemed to be so happy and so excited to be with Him. I remember relating to them and feeling that same kind of excitement to know Him, even though I did not get to sit on His lap or listen to Him tell me stories in person. He spoke to me in our own special way and I felt very loved by Him. Even though I knew He would rather be with me, I understood that He had to live in heaven because that is the only place where He could keep a good watch over all the people here on earth. I knew that He was very busy, but I never felt that He was too busy to take time for me. Boy was I connected; I was the luckiest girl in the world!
Of course, things changed as I became older and moved further and further away from my child-like ways of thinking. We stopped going to church by the time I was six and slowly but surely, I began to see and feel the painful realities of my world. It is too much to try and write out everything that happened in my life to tear me away from that girl who was God’s daughter. All I know is that each event and each new realization of who I was, who I felt I could never become due to who I was led me further and further into my own unbelief and my own shame about myself. Like a shadow, the darkness in my heart began to form. At first it was not threatening to overtake me, but it continued to creep in until it eventually did. By the time I was fifteen, I did not really care what happened to me. My days revolved around trying to get the attention of anyone. I was failing out of school and was eagerly awaiting my sixteenth birthday so that I could drop out of school. I had a severe eating disorder and I had become very sexually promiscuous. Although I still prayed, I felt unworthy of God. My prayers were route offerings made from fear of Him, no longer formed from a heart that loved and enjoyed Him. How could I have ever actually believed that I was His daughter? How stupid can you get? God did not care about me and everything about my life proved it! I must admit that, even during this time, I still carried a hope within me. Maybe it was my mustard seed of faith, but I had a secret hope that God would come save me from this mess of a life. Many times, I even remember praying for Him to take my life so that I did not have to face another day.
God’s fingerprints were all over me, even during this time, the time when I was the furthest away from Him, He never let the darkness completely take over my heart. God reached out to me in a very powerful way during this time in my life. I had dropped out of school and was doing a lot of babysitting for families with younger children to make a living. These beautiful people began to take an interest in me. Not only did they notice that I was in desperate need of direction, they noticed that I had dropped out of school. There are days now where I sometimes look back at those moments and try to comprehend the love that these beautiful people had for me. It is no ordinary person who reaches out beyond him or herself to love another person who is in need. I am only now beginning to see the magnitude of the miracle of this kind of love. By the time summer rolled around, one of the families had asked permission from my mom to help me. I would move in with them and take correspondence courses to try and catch up with my class to graduate within a year. During this time, they also worked with me and my eating disorder and helped me find better ways to manage my weight and to stay healthy. They intervened in so many ways and my life today is still impacted by the love and selflessness that they showed to me during that time. The next summer, God intervened in another very real way. A friend I had met at school invited me to go to Camp Sugar Creek on a scholarship. I can see now how My Father in heaven had arranged all of this for me. His timing is ever so perfect and how blessed we are that He never gives up on us. It was at that camp that I met face to face with my Father again. Words can never describe how much that week changed my life. My Father embraced me and loved on me in such ways that I can hardly even write about it without breaking down. I can tell you one thing for sure; My Father does not just stay up in heaven to look down over us and watch us from above. He is here, with us, among us. He holds us when we need to be held and He gets in our face when we need Him to. He touches us in ways that satisfy us like no person with skin on can. I left camp a new creation. Everything that had held me down in the past was left there at camp. I was filled with my newness in Christ and I was happy and free for the first time in a very long time. I had a desire to win everyone I could to Christ, and I drove almost every person I knew crazy. There was a fire within me that burned stronger than anything I had ever felt before. I was confident that I could do anything now. Unfortunately, my confidence became part of the problem. I had arrived; therefore I did not need any further discipline from my Father. Needless to say, it did not take long for the world to gain the upper hand in my life again, and I lost sight of God. I found myself wanting satisfaction from the world again. Even then, God’s fingerprints were still firmly being planted in my life. I graduated with my class and I had a dream to go to college. No one in my family had ever been before and I felt that it was time to change that cycle. This became a huge issue in my family. Not only could I not afford to go, but my mom needed me to help her out with bills at home. I know now that families in generational poverty have a fear of change and that they often see someone wanting more for themselves as a form of rejection towards the family. This was the case with my mom and I was eventually forced to make the decision of leaving home or going to college. I made the decision to go to college. I would take out loans and work to support myself through this time and I would graduate, no matter what!
By my third year in college, I guess God had decided that enough was enough. He threw me a “circumstance” that would again humble me and bring me back into His will for my life. This “circumstance” was born on February 8, 1995 at 12:09 AM. His name is Joshua. He was most perfect thing I had ever laid eyes on. I have never felt more love and more fear at the same time. There were many miracles surrounding the circumstances of both our lives during this time and God’s fingerprints were once again all over our lives. At the time of Joshua’s birth, I had nearly lost everything I owned. I had dropped out of college and was uncertain if I could even go back. Several people were trying to convince me to give Joshua up for adoption. They argued that I had nothing to give him. They were right. In my heart, I just could not bear to let him go. I felt as if he had been my own personal gift from God, meant just for me. He was all I had and I was all he had. Just before the shadow was about to overtake me once again, I was given a new life, a new purpose, someone to live for. My Father once again met me face to face at this time and gave me permission to keep Joshua. Through all my fear and helplessness, He reached out to me with a message that was so clear to me that it still gives me chills to think about it. After a day of crying out to Him for help and direction, I clearly heard His Voice telling me, “You can keep him, and I will help you make a life for him”. He cried out once again for me to turn over my control to Him, to trust Him with all my life, not just the parts I felt safe in turning over. Joshua was 15 months old when I became the first woman in my family to graduate from college. God intervened in so many ways during that short time and I witnessed miraculous reminders of His provision for us constantly. I now know that I needed Joshua to help me become more than I thought I could be. There are things in your life that you will do for your children that you would never do for yourself. God, in all His perfect wisdom, knew I needed this precious baby boy to empower me to strive for a better life. Although it was hard to understand then, God was bringing me back into a path He had laid out for me. Although I strayed, He always found a way to bring me back home.
Joshua and I moved back to Houston and I began a teaching career. I decided to go to graduate school to become a counselor shortly after I began teaching. I wish I could say that I “got it” and that I fully submitted my life to my Father at this time. After all, had I not learned my lesson after all I had been through? Although I had accomplished so much, I had a restlessness in me that could not be quenched. I figured that this was because I had not yet found my “soul mate”, the person that would at last bring me the happiness I had longed for. I could kick myself now for not looking right in front of me for my soul mate. He had been with me from the beginning and must have gotten so frustrated as He was rejected time and time again while waiting for me to notice how much He loved me and was proving for me. It breaks my heart now to think about this and to realize His ever patient, loving-kindness towards His children.
I guess it should not surprise anyone that I picked the wrong guy to commit to. Of course, many women are guilty of this same mistake, but I really knew how to cash in on this one. I married my first husband in a jail in California. He had been a childhood friend whom I had started a long-distance dating relationship with. We had talked about getting married one day and when he got arrested, I just could not leave him in such a predicament all alone. Joshua and I lived in California for almost four years while my now ex-husband did his time. I felt as if my life was on hold during this time. What a waste that I did not allow myself to see the truth about what I was doing. The beautiful thing about my Father is that He uses everything! Even our biggest mistakes, He can turn around and use them for His greatest Glory! Hallelujah! Shortly after my ex-husband got out of prison, I became pregnant with my second miracle. Although it became obvious almost immediately after my ex-husband’s release that my marriage would not survive, there are no ends to the blessings that continue to come from my experiences during that time in my life. Finally, after all the losses, all the mistakes, all the times I missed the forest for the trees, I came full circle (my Gilgal). As I sat at my mom’s house, pregnant with child number two, no husband (again) and no idea of how my life had turned out to be such a mess, I came to the most humbling realization that I did not know what I was doing. It was during this time that I turned to God full force. Not only was I determined to find out the truth about who He really is and how He really operates, I invited Him to shed light into the dark places in my own heart. It had never been enough before that I knew how great He was. He had been waiting ever so patiently to show me the truth about how precious I was in His sight. As only the most loving Father would do, He gently picked me up each time I fell, kissed my hurts away, and watched me go off to get hurt again, never once stopping to ask Him how I could avoid the falls that were constantly hurting me. I can only imagine the grin that lit up His face the day I turned to Him and asked Him to show me the Truth about myself, to heal me once and for all. It was only until I was able to come to this place with Him that I became clear about the amazing plans He has had for me all along. I was always too busy trying to make a life of substance instead of just giving Him my life and accepting His substitution for me, which IS my substance. Each time I tried to build a life by my wrong choices, I just messed it up. The truth is that He can get us out of all our messes, but He revels in the moments when we acknowledge our own weakness in comparison to His greatness. My biggest prayer during this time became,” God, show me the truth about myself, take me to places I left your side and show me why I did that so that it won’t happen again”. The most amazing thing happened in my life as I began this new chapter with Him, He answered my prayers and gave a freedom that I don’t have to wait until heaven have.
By the time my miracle number two was born, I was well on my way to acknowledging that I didn’t need to know what I was going to do to make this life work. All I needed was Him and all He needed was for me to continue to give Him the access into my heart that He needed. I was introduced to two new Faiths that year. One was my precious daughter, Faith, who was born on March 1, 2002 and the other was a faith in God that I had never even been able to come close to before. I learned that God’s greatest joy comes when we honor Him with 100% of our hearts. We can only do this when we have a faith that is bigger than our fears, our pain, our guilt, our shame and our pride (biggest one). I am thoroughly convinced that Our Father loves us enough to be content in us even if we never get to this point with Him. The Cross is sufficient, even when we aren’t. I believe that, had I never come to this place with Him, He would have still loved me enough to continue picking me up each time I fell and ran to Him. Like a mother who yearns for the touch of her baby, He simply delights in the moments we reach out to Him, even if it is from a scary place. Oh, but the joy that comes when we turn to Him and ask Him to gently lift us up and show us His ways so that we no longer fall.
I am happy to say that I have finally learned my lesson. I know enough to know that I don’t know enough and I never will. If I begin to come to a place where I feel that I do know enough, I know that I am struggling with pride and that I need to spend more time with my Father. I am also happy to say that God is using all my mistakes, failures, pain, and moments of humility to glorify His name through me. I work as a school counselor where I deal with children and families of children who are going through circumstances that, had I not walked down some of the same roads, I would have no idea how to help. God allows situations in my life to take place almost daily where I get to be His hands, His feet, His words, His hug, His touch, and even share His words. As much as I love my job and I would hate to ever leave it, I feel God calling me to another direction. It is a direction that I hesitate to go, only because I still sometimes battle with unworthiness of His great grace towards me. However, He continues to nudge and I continue to listen for His direction in my life. I have learned not to plan too far ahead and to keep my eyes, ears and heart open to His calling all the time. I feel led to work in the woman’s ministry to help all women. Most specifically, I feel led to get the message out about a Father’s Love. I feel that there are many women out there who have lost trust in their own fathers because of past pain, women who feel unable to grasp the fullness and healing of what their heavenly Father can do for them. God is pointing these women out to me and showing me the need for these precious souls to learn of His great love for each of them. I will journey down whatever road He leads me.
“Jesus loves me this I know”, these words have sustained me and have been the only constant in my life. This is my testimony up until this point I my life. It is my prayer that God will allow me to help other women embrace the depth, breadth and fullness of just how great His love is. My life is my greatest proof that there is a loving, kind, patient, willing and devoted Father watching over all of us. He has painted my life with the most unlikely colors and created a beautiful masterpiece!